Further, when we are on the way, and that not a way that lies through space, but through a change of affections, and one which the guilt of our past sins like a hedge of thorns barred against us, what could He, who was willing to lay Himself down as the way by which we should return, do that would be still gracious and more merciful, except to forgive us all our sins, and by being crucified for us to remove the stern decrees that barred the door against our return?
~ St. Augustine, On Christian Doctrine 1.17.16
Tonight Orthodox Christians like myself commemorate by anticipation the Great and Holy Friday upon which Jesus Christ was crucified. I had meant to write a reflection, but poetry seems far more appropriate.
Amidst the dirt the gardener suffers
the stings and scratches of thorns
and thistles’ deceptive beauty
that punishes the fruitful.
This land, though good, is cursed
and resists its own good goal,
yet through sweat we work it
for the grain that sustains our lives.
Christ our God, the gardener
came down into his field
and took up the thorns’ sharp blister
to wear upon his brow.
And when he prayed amidst the garden
he sweat red drops of blood,
and accepted the labor of salvation
though he’d rather not take the cup.
When I, with dirt upon my hands,
am pierced by pseudo-beauty,
I must remember that through this
the good earth brings forth fruit.
And when a soldier’s spear did pierce
the body of God made man,
my redemption was revealed to be
a harvest of the fruit of heaven.
O Lord, who did not scorn such fate,
let me not complain
of thorns and thistles and life’s dread pain
for fruit of soul it cultivates.
O God, from whom all life and breath
is given on this earth,
thank you for the death of death
that gives me my rebirth.
And let me not for scratch nor tear
nor blood let loose my scorn,
nor for sweat upon my brow to bear
sweet fruit among the thorns.